Using Sippy Cups and Pacifiers- Will They Help or Hurt My Late Talking Toddler?

This topic was originally written at the end of another post, but the questions and comments I’ve received via -email warrant a more lengthy discussion. (By the way – If you’d rather send me an e-mail with a question or comment rather than post it on the site, the address is laura@teachmetotalk.com.)

When I’m in a social setting and people find out that I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I get lots of questions about using pacifiers, sippy cups, and if they affect speech development in babies and toddlers.

Let’s tackle the sippy cup?question first. “Sippy cup mouth,” or a huge open bite, is quite common. Don’t mistake the word “common” for “normal.” When children have an open bite they have a gap between their upper and lower teeth when closing the top and bottom teeth together. Many times this dental malocclusion can be linked to prolonged sippy cup use. By prolonged I mean carrying a cup around all day and sleeping with one at night, or using this kind of cup exclusively after age 2 or 3. It can be worse if your child is using a sippy cup AND taking a pacifier because there’s something in his mouth essentially all of the time.

If your child is using a lisp as a toddler or preschooler, it’s likely he has an open bite. An approximation for the sound /s/ is very common in this age group, with or without an open bite. As children get closer to age 5, their/s/ should sound adult-like. If this doesn’t occur by age 5, children may need speech therapy to help learn a more mature production pattern for /s/. This is usually the only negative effect on speech development.

Although it’s messier than a sippy cup, your child should learn to drink from a straw by age 2 and an “open cup”before age 2 1/2 to 3. This takes a commitment from parents because it requires more supervision and clean up than using a no-spill cup. Not too long ago, we didn’t even have sippy cups, besides the slotted top kind from Tupperware. Actually that cup could still be a nice transition between sippy cups and an open cup. The skills to drink from a slotted opening are more mature than the sucking pattern required for the no-spill sippy cups.

Moving to a more complex cup is a great way to work on oral motor coordination than any set of “oral motor exercises.” This drinking practice is very functional, meaning that your child would have built-in opportunities to “practice” many times a day, rather than setting aside time to do special oral motor tasks.

Introduce the new cups (straw, slotted, or open) when he’s seated at a table, outside, or on a tile kitchen floor. Save the sippy cups only for times when making a mess is a big deal such as in the car, when he’s on carpet, or in any other place that would be a major hassle to clean.

Your child should NEVER go to bed with a sippy cup or bottle, no matter how convenient it is to help him to sleep. Leaving the cup or bottle between your teeth while sleeping is what leads to the open space AND tooth decay, especially if you’re using milk or juice. I’ve known several two-year-olds who have had to see a dentist due to a mouth full of greying teeth. Not a pretty site. If you can’t kick this habit just yet, at least switch to water in the cup at bedtime.

Straw drinking is wonderful for oral motor coordination and sensory skill development. Drinking  a cold, thick liquid from a crazy straw is just about the best way to improve tongue, lip, and cheek strength and coordination all in one! Look in the toddler dishes/utensils section of the major retailers for the many version of these cups, or save and use the plastic ones you get at sit-down restaurants. Sports water bottles are also a good option.

Now let’s tackle pacifiers. For some toddlers, pacifiers are not an issue since they never took one in the first place or easily gave it up as an infant. Sometimes not taking a pacifier hasn’t necessarily been a good thing either, since a child may not have found a successful way to self-soothe. Sucking is a very good way to regulate an out-of-control infant and toddler.

Many babies find their thumbs during this phase. While some parents and even experts prefer this habit, I think it’s a lot more difficult to kick, even for 6 and 7 year olds, because you can never truly get rid of it.

For some babies and toddlers (and their parents!), pacifiers are essential and even recommended. For babies with significant oral motor issues, learning to suck a pacifier and keep it in their mouths is a milestone. For cranky babies and toddlers with sensory integration differences, using a pacifier to soothe is the only thing that helps them calm.

Most children should be able to give up the pacifier between age 2 1/2 to 3, or at least relegate this for sleeping or calming only. Walking around all day with a pacifier in your mouth is not recommended as kids move closer to age 3, but not because it keeps you from talking. It makes you look like a big ol’ baby, but that’s another issue in and of itself, and one I’m not going to tackle today!

I think it’s a myth that pacifiers prevent children from talking. Most kids try to talk with it in their mouths and then take it out if their parents insist that they don’t understand them. If your toddler is not talking, is over age 2, and is addicted to his pacifier, try to limit the pacifier to naps, bedtime, and when he really needs it to calm down. You can monitor to see if having an open mouth during waking hours will help him vocalize more. In nearly every child I’ve seen in my whole career, the lack of language is the reason the kid isn’t talking, not because he takes a pacifier.

Some SLPs disagree with this and insist that a toddler be weaned as soon as they begin therapy. I usually advise parents to keep the pacifier until we find other ways to help a kid self-soothe. I think taking away the only method some kids have for calming down is too traumatic when they are also struggling to learn to communicate. I am not into torture, not for the kids I see, and especially not for their parents!

I will add that I don’t let children keep pacifiers in when I’m in their homes seeing them for therapy unless they are falling apart without it. Many children I see work so hard during treatment that they need it to calm down after we’re finished, and I think this is alright.

Parents of children with sensory issues tell me that they need the pacifier for times when no other option works to wind down a jacked-up toddler or end a tantrum. If your toddler, even at 3, still needs the pacifier to help calm his sensory system, keep it and don’t feel guilty. As a mom, I’m just fine with that. As a therapist, I’m fine with it too, but I’d like to see them learn to self-soothe in other more mature ways as they turn 3, and especially by 4, if at all possible.

Options that I’ve seen work are finding a special blanket, stuffed animal, or doll. You are still transferring dependence to an object, but usually one that won’t hurt your teeth, or cause grandma and the neighbors to raise an eyebrow or make those nasty, condescending comments that cause us all to cringe.

Kicking these habits aren’t easy, but it’s all part of growing up, for your baby and you!

Laura

Sign Up for your
Free Book

FREE-EBOOK

Subscribe

Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes

Browse Products

Featured Product

Recent Posts

Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

"Hello Miss Laura,

First, I would like to thank you for all you do for us moms who are lacking support in the autism community, and thank you for providing tons of information and resources to help our bright children. I myself benefited so much from watching your videos and reading your daily emails. I cannot stress enough how much all this information helped my toddler. Of course, getting an autism diagnosis for your child is extremely scary (she was diagnosed at 2 years old) and I was depressed and did not know what autism was, how it affected children, and how to teach children struggling with this condition. However, your videos helped me to find light in my child and now I am your biggest fan! I rewatch your videos over and over again to make sure I didn't miss anything that can help my daughter. I even purchase two books- Autism workbook and Teach me to Play. My toddler was completely non-verbal, she didn't know how to imitate, no eye contact, no pointing.. you name it she didn't have any skills and I didn't know how to teach her! And that is until I discover ed You- my toddlers (Fairy: smiling_face_with_3_hearts:)!

Now she is little sweet 2.5 years old and she says "mama" (I cried when she said that magic word), she waves bye bye or hi, she points, she gives "high 5", her joint attention is great and overall she is doing so much better! And that's all because I have been doing everything you described in your books and videos! I. My mind I always play "repetition, repetition and repetition", teaching her everything through play that she so much enjoys!!! I can write forever explaining how much I taught her through yr videos and books! And the most amazing thing is that her speech therapist is a big fan of yours as well so it worked out perfectly since we understand each other and work based on your teachings! The therapist even owns the same books I own ...I am so grateful that my toddler has such an amazing therapist; especially the one that understands autism and is ready for a real challenge! God bless you for all you do and I cannot wait for my toddler blossom.. you gave me hope and lit the light inside me. And I'm determined to work with my girl :)"

"Dear Laura Mize and Team,

Thank you so much for all your hard work and publishing books! Our 17-month-old toddler suddenly exploded into speaking and imitating everybody's gestures and sounds, just a week or two after we 'completed' all activities that are listed under 11 pre-linguistic skills! Your method really works!"

Grateful customer.

"Hi Laura!

I absolutely LOVE all of your workbooks, especially your Autism Workbook. Starting with Social Games has been a game changer for many of my littles with ASD and their families. It's been the best way for them to finally connect and sustain shared attention and engagement, leading to longer social interactions, through play!"

Jodie, Dev, Therapist

"Hi Ms. Laura,

Thank you so much for the videos you have posted on your youtube channel. They are so direct, informative, and helpful. Thank you for being a resource for me to become a better therapist."

Dianne

"Hi Laura - I just wanted to say I received my copies of the Apraxia workbooks yesterday and I LOVED workbook 1 (not ready for 2). I'm on chapter 8 and going through the questions carefully so I'm prepared to help my son. I knew it was a great book when you acknowledged the fact that sometimes therapists and doctors don't bring a positive and supportive vibe when diagnosing. I remember being terrified at the mention of apraxia and ASD by both because they had these very concerned looks and made it seem like it was a death sentence. I know now (in LARGE PART, THANKS TO YOU AND YOUR VIDEOS) that it doesn't have to be!! I see a future for him now. You SINGLE-HANDEDLY, through your books and videos have empowered me to help my son after the doctors and therapists have gone home. You've given me strategies, play ideas, plans on how to keep moving forward. I don't always do things right, but I know I'm on the right track and I love that I can reference, and re-reference your books to help me keep going. As I was reading the book, I was so proud of myself because I've used strategies from your previous books and it felt good because I could check off a lot of the skills that you discuss. So, thank you for all your previous books as well!!"

"Gosh, I love all of your emails/podcast/website, just everything!! I work in early intervention as a behavior analyst and am learning so much from you!"

Thank you!

Hailey

 

"Laura,

I love your work! I am a professor of early childhood special education and a speech language pathologist! I have worked to help children learn to communicate and I know how valuable the information you share is for both early interventionists and pediatric speech language pathologists!

Thank you for systematically organizing and explaining essential steps for young children to learn and develop. You are having a great impact on our profession, the ECE profession and families!"

Sincerely,

David

"Thank you.

If this is Laura herself reading this email let me take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have put forth for us professionals. I own every manual (except the autism manual) and have watched every course on DVD. I have listened to countless podcasts. All of what I’ve come to be as an Early Intervention speech therapist was absolutely to your credit. With your resources at my side I have never needed to scramble for answers and strategies and above all the clear language I use when communicating with parents. My fun, animated affect and key phrases I use have been learned through watching your example. So….thank you! May you be blessed."

Chaya

"I just wanted to thank you so much for your incredible help! You are so kind and lovely and every time I implement something you've taught in your manuals or videos it is always a success, I cannot thank you enough. I really appreciate how specific you are in giving us examples of wording to use and how to use a toy in therapy with your videos, it is exactly what I need to properly help my little students. I also really appreciate your list of books of list of toys. I have seen my little students make significant progress thanks to you. I'm looking forward to watching more of your videos, taking more of your CEU's, and reading more of your materials. From the bottom of my heart: thank you so much again!!"

Lauren

"Dear Laura,

What an inspiration!

Thank you for helping me be a better Developmental Therapist. I often listen to your podcasts which help me help families.

Your enthusiasm, professionalism and
the sheer volume of information is so great.

You are part of my team.

I just wanted you to know I appreciate you."

Margaret

"Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤"

With gratitude,
Diane

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA

"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP
 
 

Laura thank you so much. Btw, you have transformed my therapy- I have become such a competent and strong therapist after watching probably like 350 of your videos and podcasts over the past few years. And I am a seasoned therapist with almost 25 years experience. (Yes prob 350 episodes ha!) But there was still a lot I learned from you. I have such a thorough understanding of birth to 3 development and how to properly incorporate appropriate therapeutic goals, techniques and strategies now, thanks to you. Kelly

 
But I just keep watching and learning because we can always learn something new! 
Thanks for all you do! 

Hi Laura,I want to thank you so much for the resources you provide, my daughter has delayed speech and though she qualifies for CDS. Honestly the most progress she has made in her speech/language development has been after I implemented your 5 top strategies for delayed talkers! She is now almost 2.5 and her vocabulary is well over 75 (I haven’t counted recently, could be over 100) words when at 2 she barely had four words. Honestly the last few months have been a transformation for her.

Ann